Iglu Cruise recently took over from cruise dot co dot uk as the number one cruise travel agent website in the UK within Google search pages for terms like Cheap Cruises; but will they stay there?
I feel I need to add that as a Travel SEO, I have done some work in the past for a competitor of Iglu Cruise; namely Adore Cruises who have the sort of issues caused by having a link profile that used some techniques mentioned below.
Not everyone knows this but Google likes to update its algorithm around 10 times a week; added to this are periodic major updates; recent ones include the Exact Match Domain; Panda and Penguin updates.
What Google is trying to do is to stop low quality websites from appearing high in their index or Search Results Pages; more often shortened to SERP’s. They are also trying to stop people from manipulating the search results via the improper use of link-building.
What we need to consider here is Google’s history. Initially Google was called BackRub; it works on the principle that if someone links to a website, it is a vote of confidence in that site. The more that people link to it, the more, in a kind of way, likes it has.
However Google soon found out that people would manipulate links in order for their or their client’s website to rank high. Hence, the regular updates to the Google algorithm.
In order to help those responsible for looking after websites, Google created what is known as Webmaster Guidelines. This gives an indication of what not to do in order to try and affect the SERP’s.
So why did I start with the title “Will Iglu Cruise Melt?”
One of the biggest no, no’s in Google is paid Links. If you think about it; a link is a vote for a website. If you can buy links (votes) then those with the deepest pockets will win. This is against Google’s initial concept of a backrub for good work so to speak.
So where does Iglu Cruise fit in with this? They are at or near the top for almost every conceivable cruise elated search term. Yet they are appear to be ignoring Google’s guidelines by buying links.
What Google have said is; it is OK to buy links if the sole purpose is to generate traffic and to not try and manipulate the search results. So that webmasters can make money from their websites Google allows them to add what is known as a no follow tag to paid for links which says to Google “don’t pass on any of my link juice to this website; I am not vouching for it!”
However Iglu Cruise like many before them have links from websites; often under the guise of an advertorial (paid for content) that do not have this rel=”nofollow” tag and therefore these links pass on link juice which will have an effect on the SERP’s.
Should Google look into this then there is a very high chance that they will lose a lot of first place results and therefore traffic to their website and therefore loss of revenue and… Need I go on?
Examples of Paid for Links
As an example I will now show four places where Iglu Cruises have bought links; I have emails from two of these companies (covering three of the websites) letting me know how much it would cost for these links; one is $150 for an advertorial ; this company has two websites and I have no doubt the other commands a similar fee.
So the first website that sparked my short yet informative search off is http://traveltweaks.com/; they charge $150 for an advertorial such as this one “Summer 2011 is coming: Time to Cruise” (http://traveltweaks.com/summer-luxury-cruise-31766/).
The website does not add nofollow via the robots.txt file nor does it add a meta tag doing the same. When you check the link to the Iglu Cruises’ Princess Cruises page it is full follow; clearly a paid link designed for gaining rankings in SERPS and not traffic.
Although not specified, the website is hosted in the US and appears to target US consumers; Iglu can’t sell cruises to US citizens (I believe this to be true and apologies if incorrect) and so they will not benefit from any traffic gained. Blatantly bought link?
Travel Tweeks is run by Mirror Communications and they have a second travel website where Iglu have a post; http://travel.prwave.ro/greece-finest-islands/. Like the first there are no, nofollow attributes and the website is a .ro which is Romania.
I will just say that it is not only Iglu who are abusing the Google Websmaster Guidelines with this company; so are Thomas Cook http://traveltweaks.com/last-minute-cruises-35446/.
The second company costs between £1,000 and 2,000 per month depending on how many places you want your articles to appear. Some articles appear on their main website; it is some of these that break the guidelines. I have not checked out the network they use.
Their main website has at least placed some nofollow links on their some pages however there are numerous articles where these do not appear; it is these articles that Google will punish them for if they don’t do something about it.
One of these articles is (please note the site is no longer in oporation and is now being redirected to a different domain name) (www.)travelbite(.co.uk/travel-directory/iglu-com/article/how-do-cruise-lines-cater-for-families). This may be an over site but as they stand they are bought links!
Now the third company really deserves to put to the sword by Google for selling paid links; though I have not had conformation that these are paid for; I bet if 1 million of us asked for the type of link I will show you, none of us will get it without paying for it; unless they have read this first that is!
If there was ever a blatant attempt to try and manipulate the SERP’s then this is it! The travel page on Talktalk (https://www.talktalk.co.uk/travel/) has links to other company’s websites. These are paid for links and are full follow links.
They will probably tell you that the links are redirects from a referral name and number, but; redirects; if 301’s, will pass on a percentage of link juice therefore affecting the SERP’s.
But where I have a major problem is the sitemap page for talktalk (it appears that Talk Talk have now removed the offending sitemap). Iglu’s website is not on their website. It is a different website altogether and therefore has no place in the sitemap for talktalk! Only pages that appear on your website should appear in a sitemap; unless you are trying to manipulate…
Some will say that because the page linked too from the sitemap has Talk Talks frame around it, it is part of talk talk. Well OK; copy the source code from that page and compare it to the source code of Iglu Cruise on another browser using something like https://www.diffnow.com/ and you will see that there is no difference in the source code which means all the pages on Iglu’s site gain from the link in Talk Talk’s sitemap.
Now I will leave it there as I doubt if anyone will read this post; but I will say that there are many other places where companies buy links that should have nofollow tags; a lot of these are with major publications such as newspapers similar to this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/8269450/Cruise-holidays-deals-of-the-day.html.